Here we go, here we go, here we go! What's the point of making these rankings? The Warriors are just going to win, the NBA is rigged!
On a serious note, the Warriors look mortal! There are eight legitimate contenders this year and the NBA is great again!
Too Young, Too Unproven to take seriously
15) Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have by far the worst roster in the NBA. Kemba leaving was devastating, but when you factor in all of the poor contracts they have piled up over the years, it makes me almost think they’re the Knicks.
14) Cleveland Cavaliers
The health of Kevin Love will determine their seeding, but even if he plays 82 games, there is not enough fire power on this team to be a legitimate playoff contender.
13) New York Knicks
With Durant, Kyrie and Zion, the Knicks will win 10 championships in the next 8 seasons.
I have said enough about this squad. Knicks fans are going to love Julius Randle, the dude is a bulldozer. Think Zach Randolph but with bounce. The roster is a weird mix of mediocre role players and unproven young talent. Coach Fizdale will have to mix and match between trying to win games, and develop the youth.
I ask that Knicks fans relax when RJ Barrett goes 2-13 in a game, that is going to happen... multiple times. He is 19 years old. Let's chill and watch this team develop, or just root for Brooklyn, I don't care.
12) Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have legitimate talent. Lauri Markkanen and Zach Lavine should have great offensive seasons, and Otto Porter Jr. is a perfect fit anywhere, but their lack of defense combined with inefficient offensive players will cap their ceiling.
8 Seed Contenders
11) Washington Wizards
The John Wall contract is a nightmare and potentially the worst contract in the history of the NBA. It’s not his fault, but he simply cannot stay on the court. The good news is, Bradley Beal is a legitimate talent.
10) Atlanta Hawks
After the all-star break Trae Young averaged 25 points, 9 assists while shooting 35% from three and 88% from the line. He has already proven that he is a legitimate threat... on the offensive end. The scouting report is out, and teams know to go at Trae Young on defense.
I think the Hawks had the best draft this year scoring De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. This team has a great future, but defensively they are going to have way too many issues to be taken seriously this season.
9) Detroit Pistons
The first upset on my list! Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond had one of their best seasons last year, but unless you want to convince me that Derrick Rose and Thon Maker are legitimate additions, I think the next eight are safer bets to make the playoffs.
8) Orlando Magic
I think this is the final year to decide whether or not Aaron Gordon is going to be an all-star type player. The talent is clear, he is an insane athlete and has improved his shooting tremendously. He is currently a poor man's Blake Griffin, but the Magic are hoping he can be their guy.
I am curious to see if Markell Fultz remembered to play basketball, and if Mo Bamba is a NBA player. Those will be two fun projects to watch.
Nikola Vucevic is their rock, and combined with a decent amount of depth, that should be enough to land an eight seed in a weak Eastern Conference.
Needs one more puzzle piece
7) Miami Heat
The Heat were already a good defensive team with depth. The addition of Jimmy Butler is going to help them tremendously on the offensive end.
Do the Heat trade for Chris Paul? Probably, which will change this projection. Jimmy Butler said he wanted to leave Minnesota because he wanted to win... so he went to Miami. Not sure if that makes sense, but they're good enough to make the playoffs!
6) Brooklyn Nets
I swear I'm not a sore loser. Okay, I am, but hear me out: Kyrie had his best statistical season, and it somehow made the Celtics worse. I am not saying Kyrie is going to hurt the Nets, because that's a stupid prediction.
However, Coach Kenny Atkinson is going to have to change up how this team plays with Kyrie as the floor general. There will be a learning curve and that will cost them games. With that being said, Kyrie could pull off an upset in the first round.
The Nets are setup for contention next season when Durant returns.
5) Toronto Raptors
The Raptors were 17-5 last season without Kawhi Leonard, which can only mean they're better without him, right? I hate statistics like that, but the Raptors are currently built to be a great regular season team. Is Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam good enough to make the Raptors a legitimate threat to win back to back titles? Definitely not, but the team still had enough depth to be taken seriously this season.
Side note: the next two summers the Raptors will have only $29 Million and then $15 Million on their payroll. Masai Ujiri would love nothing more than to either roll the dice on another disgruntled robot... or better yet, make a run for Giannis?
4) Indiana Pacers
Signing Malcolm Brogdon was an underrated move in one of the craziest offseasons in NBA history. His playmaking ability should keep the Pacers afloat as Oladipo tries to get back to 100%.
The Pacers have proven for multiple seasons now they don't need all the talent in the world to compete in the regular season. Coach Nate McMillan has given this team an identity. You may beat this team due to talent, but you will not out-work them.
A big question Indiana must face is who is their big man of the future: Sabonis or Turner? I have a sneaky suspicion this small market team will not retain both.
3) Boston Celtics
The loss of Kyrie will be celebrated by multiple Celtics fans. After signing Kemba Walker, we can call that a wash. I think overall Kyrie is better, but due to the better locker room fit, we may be able to argue Kemba was an addition by subtraction.
The biggest loss that will hurt the Celtics tremendously was Al Horford. He was the only consistent player on both ends of the floor, on an incredibly inconsistent team season last year.
We were ready to call the Celtics the Spurs of the East, with an amazing coach and GM. Their roster remains super talented. If you follow this blog, you'll know how I feel about Enes Kanter. There's a reason he signed a super cheap deal... no one wants him. I actually think the Celtics are a great fit for him, due to their strong perimeter defense, he will not have to cover as much ground as he would on a crappy defensive team. Still, he's really really really bad at defense and Celtics fans are going to be pissed off after watching Horford for the past couple years.
2) Philadelphia 76ers
Did I mention Al Horford is good at basketball? Brent Brown will have to figure out how to keep Horford and Embiid on the floor together. Offensively this shouldn't be an issue since they can both stretch the floor, but in a league that caters to speed, having two centers on the floor together could be tricky.
Horford's IQ will allow him to mesh with the Sixers immediately. You could easily argue this is the most dangerous starting five in the NBA. Depth and health will remain the bigger question for Philly.
Also, apparently Simmons can shoot now? I don't believe it, but it doesn't matter, he's still going to kill everyone this year.
1) Milwaukee Bucks
The Rockets of the East (except Bucks can play defense). Last year the Bucks were second in the league in threes made per game. Giannis is only 24 years old. The Bucks retained Middleton and Splash Mountain.
The loss of Brogdon is going to sting in the playoffs. It is clear that their best lineup includes Bledsoe, Middleton, Giannis and Lopez, but it is unclear who that fifth guy is going to be: Wes Matthews? George Hill? Kyle Korver? Expect the Bucks to make a move at the trade deadline. Maybe they can give the Knicks a first rounder for Marcus Morris!
Too Young and Unproven to take seriously
15) Memphis Grizzlies
The loss of Mike Conley made me sad; the Grit and Grind era is officially over. On the bright side Jaren Jackson Jr. had a great rookie year and the Grizzlies will be in prime contention for the number 1 pick.
Also, Ja is the man, and will have free rein to do whatever the hell he wants. Definitely a ROTY candidate.
14) Phoenix Suns
The addition of Rubio should allow Devin Booker to do what he does best: score. DeAndre Ayton took a back seat to Doncic and Young his rookie year, but he is a beast in his own right. The first overall pick averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds while shooting a super efficient 58% from the field. His efficiency as a rookie proved to be super valuable.
Unfortunately, his defense, along with the rest of the team is going to prevent the Suns from having a successful season, especially in this conference. The future looks sunny for this franchise though!
7 & 8 Seed Contenders
13) Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves' core is still super young. Towns is only 23 and Wiggins is only 24. Minnesota is stuck with an awful Andrew Wiggins contract, which is probably impossible to trade. There has been almost no improvement to his game since his rookie season.
Look for Towns to have a dominant season in the box score (best fantasy player in my humble opinion), but his box score will not be enough.
12) New Orleans Pelicans
Lonzo has free rein to do his thing. It looks like he even improved his shooting stroke this offseason. Lonzo to Zion alley-oops will be fun. Lonzo and Holiday will make a great defensive pairing in the backcourt, and Zion has the potential to be an all defensive player throughout his career. Add in a savvy veteran like Favors, plus Ingram and Redick to help space the floor, and you have a complete team on paper.
Problem: This entire team is super fragile, almost every player is super injury prone, and I can't see guys like Lonzo or Holiday playing 82 games this year. JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his career, until this season.
11) Sacramento Kings
De'Aaron Fox is the man. Plain and simple. This will be his breakout season. The Kings have enough depth on the wing to allow Fox to feast on lazy regular season defenders. Buddy Hield is the ideal backcourt mate for Fox. The dude is a gunner and shot a higher 3 point percentage last season than Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, and JJ Redick.
This team would easily make the playoffs in the East, but the West is simply too strong.
10) Oklahoma City Thunder
Many might think this is too high, and if the Thunder trade away CP3 or shut him down to end the season in an attempt to get higher lottery odds, then it would be clear that this prediction is a stretch... but until then check out this roster:
OKC's success will be determined by whether or not they decide to tank, but they are more than capable at making a run for the playoffs with this current roster. CP3 may have an awful contract, but he's still a top point guard in this league when healthy.
9) Dallas Mavericks
As a Knicks fan, this one stings. If Porzingis is healthy, the Mavericks are destined to be a long term contender for the next decade. He is the perfect fit with Luka Doncic, and it's not because they're both Europeans.
If you haven't been following, Luka Doncic had the best statistical rookie season since LeBron James. He will be a MVP caliber player in the next couple of years.
Let's talk about this season: The Mavs have enough fire power surrounding Doncic and Porzingis, and for whatever reason, coach Carlisle knows how to get the most out of his ancient bench players like JJ Barea.
8) Portland Trail Blazers
I'm done betting against this team. I really don't like their roster outside of Lillard and McCollum, but time and time again they prove me wrong. I will say it is super helpful to have two Iron Men as your backcourt in Lillard and McCollum. That backcourt is built to run this marathon of a season. No load management for those guys!
I don't love the addition of Whiteside, but can understand the insurance he provides if Nurkic proves to not be 100%.
7) San Antonio Spurs
Until proven otherwise, the Spurs are here to stay. I am going to copy and paste what I wrote last season in my predictions, because there's really nothing else to say:
The argument they will not make the playoffs and this ranking is stupid:
The Spurs' two best players thrive off making long two's in a league where 3's and layups reign supreme analytically.
The season ending ACL injury to Dejounte Murray is devastating, because he was the Spurs best defender outside of Kawhi and Danny Green, who by the way are in Toronto. Add in the loss of veteran leadership in Parker and Ginobli, and you could argue this is a lottery team.
I'll believe it when I see it. I feel much more comfortable putting the Spurs at #6 than at #10.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge were both second team All-NBA last season. They are playing with the greatest coach in any sport ever. If healthy, that should be enough to comfortably make the playoffs and I shouldn't have to write any more words.
My new grit and grind team. The Jazz are the closest thing we will get to the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, and that is not only because the acquired Conley. Their stingy defense will prove to bother teams, and the addition of Conley will allow Mitchell to focus more on scoring instead of facilitating.
With Bogdanovic and Ingles spacing the floor, this team should be good enough to survive dry spells on offense, and be one of the elite contenders. Why are they not higher on this list? The West is just too deep.
5) Golden State Warriors
This is a tricky one, because this is the first season the Warriors have absolutely no depth. They will survive without Klay in the beginning of the season because Curry is going to go nuts. Russell is no where near as good as Klay, but he's still an all-star who can help space the floor when Curry is playing, and run the offense when Curry is taking a breather.
Klay will be back this season, but even if we assume he is 100%, who is the fifth guy in crunch time? Alfosno McKinnie? Glen Robinson? I really don't know the answer to that question. This means their room for error is that much smaller. They cannot afford Curry or Draymond to get hurt this season.
4) Los Angeles Lakers
Surround LeBron with a player who is better than him at this point in his career.... and shooters, great idea Lakers. There's no questioning that the Lakers will be favorites along with the Clippers to win the championship assuming everyone is healthy. However, this is a regular season ranking.
Lakers are another team with the classic issue of figuring out who is best for their crunch time lineup. Dwight and McGee will not be seeing minutes in a close game. That leaves us with LeBron, AD, Kuz and maybe Danny Green. After that, it is slim pickings. They will survive, due to their top heavy talent, but they don't have any flexibility within their roster. This is the team.
3) Denver Nuggets
Zion who? When I think of Thicc, I think of Jokic. After ranking 3rd in MVP voting, Jokic put on a show in the playoffs. It is clear he is the next big superstar, and he has a great supporting cast who fits his play style tremendously.
Murry is only 22, but if he can make that extra jump, the Nuggets will be a very scary team. They also have a plethora of 3 and D wings, and with Millsap and Grant sharing minutes to hide Jokic's defensive blemishes, I wouldn't be surprised to see this team even higher on the list.
2) Los Angeles Clippers
Load management is the only thing stopping this squad from being the best regular season team in the NBA. This team has the potential to be the greatest defensive team in NBA history. Without stating the obvious two big free agent signings, Harrell has proven to be a great rim protector, and Patrick Beverley is a dog. Add in a solid bench and 6th man of the year Lou Will, and you have the best team in the NBA.
1) Houston Rockets
So the Rockets traded away CP3 for Russell Westbrook: A player who is basically anti analytics. Westbrook has made a living off bricking long twos and shoots an abysmal 3 point percentage. I do not understand why a genius like Daryl Morey would make a trade for him. However, Daryl Morey is smarter than me.
I will say that with the NBA wide open this season, Westbrook is at least overall more talented than CP3 at this point in his career, and it seems like the Rockets will worry about the fit later.
So why do I have this Rockets squad leading the West? The main selling point for CP3 was to give James Harden a breather during the regular season. The goal was to keep Harden fresh for the playoffs by allowing CP3 to carry some of the load. Unfortunately due to injuries CP3 was not able to keep his end of the bargain. Westbrook is a psycho, and will play unless Beverley injures him again.
James Harden's level of efficiency is unmatched in the NBA. Whether or not it is deserved, he has been leading the league every season in trips to the line, he gets fouled on every three he takes, and he's probably really pissed he didn't win MVP even though Giannis totally deserved it. He is shooting weird one legged sideways three pointers, and playing dress-up with Westbrook before games.
In the past two seasons, no team came close to beating the Rockets in the playoffs. It was only the Warriors. The Rockets are going to make it rain on every opponent, and their firepower is just too much to stop.